The Eau Gallie River and Elbow Creek Restoration Dredging Project

Aerial of a dredging barge on the Eau Gallie River

The first-ever muck removal project in the Eau Gallie River was completed on March 31, 2019.

On Jan. 25, 2017, a hydraulic dredge began pumping gooey black muck from the bottom of the Eau Gallie River in Melbourne — a tributary of the Indian River Lagoon — to a containment area a few miles away on land owned by Brevard County.

Muck is a mix of fine-grained sediments, sand, clay and organic matter (decaying leaves, grass and other plant material) contained in untreated stormwater runoff that drains to canals and storm drains connected to the Eau Gallie River. Muck deposits from stormwater runoff is a common problem throughout the lagoon.

The muck:

  • Contains nutrients which feed algal blooms.
  • Contributes to turbid, cloudy water and clogs navigation channels and damages boat engines.
  • Makes recreating in and around the water unappealing and unpleasant.
  • Provides poor habitat for estuarine organisms. Many of the plants and animals that inhabit the Indian River Lagoon avoid muck sediments, thereby reducing ecosystem quality and recreational prospects.

This historic project was possible through the St. Johns River Water Management District’s partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND), Brevard County and the city of Melbourne. More than  600,000 cubic yards of muck  was removed from the main stem of the 3.9-mile-long Eau Gallie River, as well as the southern branch of the river known as Elbow Creek.

The restoration is a win for many stakeholders, particularly residents who live on the Eau Gallie River who formed a group called the Eau Gallie River Environment is Threatened (EGRET). EGRET is a coalition of concerned Melbourne residents who  pursued local, state and federal support for the responsible stewardship of the Eau Gallie River.

Funding partners included DEP, which provided $20 million approved by the Florida Legislature in 2014 and 2015; FIND, which contributed $3.9 million toward project design, permitting and construction of a Dredge Material Management Area (DMMA); and the city of Melbourne, which contributed $50,000 for the initial feasibility study.

Brevard County provided the DMMA property, as well as a site to permanently place the dredged material.